Conn. community colleges to be consolidated under plan

Connecticut State Colleges and Universities President Mark Ojakian wants to consolidate the state's 12 community colleges into a single system. A regional accreditor this week rejected the plan. (Photo: AP file)

The leader of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities (CSCU) system wants to consolidate the state’s 12 community colleges into a single system called the Community College of Connecticut led by a vice chancellor.

The plan unveiled this week is projected to save $28 million by reducing the number of administrators. No campuses would close under the plan. CSCU President Mark Ojakian is expected to present the proposal to the Board of Regents for Higher Education on Thursday.

Savings from the plan would be invested in services that directly affect students, such as longer library hours and career services and advising, Ojakian said. He added that it also would make it easier for students to enroll in any community college or several at once with a single application. Other benefits for students, according to CSCU:

  • Common degree programs with common courses between campuses
  • Easier to take courses at any campus, including online
  • Less confusion on transfer pathways to the universities

Ojakian hopes the changes will be in place by July 1, 2019.

He initially floated the idea this spring. In a letter then to the CSCU community, Mark Ojakian said it has become abundantly clear the system’s operational costs are outpacing revenues, “creating a true structural deficit.”

A different structure

Under the plan, the system would go from 12 presidents to one vice chancellor, and would shrink 36 college administrative positions into 16, with the elimination of campus financial and academic officers. Each existing community college would be governed by a vice president and would be clustered into three regions headed by a regional president.

Next steps include developing a process to align curriculum across the 12 campuses with broad faculty participation, according to CSCU. It will include determining which degree programs will be common across the campuses, creating an academic structure to manage the degree programs, and creating common courses, syllabi, pre-requisites and courses numbers, among other things.

CSCU noted that it still wants to maintain the “uniqueness, identity and community connections of each campus.”

After the plan goes to the Board of Regents on Thursday, Ojakian plans three town hall meetings, one in each of the proposed college cluster areas, before returning to the regents in December for approval.

Ojakian has already tested the idea of sharing leaderships between institutions. Paul Broadie, president at Housatonic Community College, has also served as president of Gateway Community College since August. The two colleges also share other key administrators.

Several states around the country are considering consolidating campuses and administrative structures to save costs. Ivy Tech Community College in Indiana has for years run under a single state system. Last week, the University of Wisconsin (UW) System announced a proposal to merge UW’s two-year schools with four-year universities to address declining enrollment at UW colleges, which state leaders say is a result of flat population growth among college-age people.

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